Belonging (Ephesians 2)

All week long we wrote Belong on each other’s palms. We wrote on our fingers, too. Needed and Loved. Safe, Understood, and Purpose.

We wrote it because they’re our deepest longings. Every single one of them in every single one of us.

We wrote it because we wanted to hold on to their truth and each other and the One who would help us find them.

You can hold on, too, with us and with Him. You belong.

Ephesians 2:13-18
Now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh, he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Jesus
You are our peace

You proclaim it
You create it
You bring us near

Without you there is
No safety
No belonging
No nurturing
No identity rooted beyond this dust

Without you we are
Anchorless
Strangers, Aliens
Outsiders, Outcasts, Orphaned

Our need is so deep, so desperate
So beyond us
It took flesh, your flesh to make peace
Your torture puts hostility to death
Your broken body breaks down every dividing wall
Your blood makes us blood

What wondrous truth
What dazzling grace

Bring us near again, Jesus
Help us remember and re-member
Make us one in your generous, fierce love

*****************
This reflection came from a week leading middle school worship at the Warren W Willis United Methodist Summer Camp in Fruitland Park, Florida.

It feels especially needed given the hate and division being promoted in our country.

Should you ever want a gentle ear to listen, or a gentle heart to pray, I would be honored to be that for you.

Belonging © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

You Are the Source, a hymn based on John 15

One with Christ by Kim Kunzer-Zalke

This hymn text was written at the request of a pastor friend many years ago. She wanted a hymn which expressed the themes of John 15:1-17. I share it today remembering her; thankful for her friendship and encouragement back when I was first beginning to write. I pray you would feel the abiding love of God and others this day and every day. – Lisa <

You Are the Source
Meter- 86.86 with Refrain (CM with Refrain)
Suggested Tune- GIFT OF FINEST WHEAT (United Methodist Hymnal #629)

Refrain–
You are the Source of grace and life,
The Root of all that’s true
You join us to this mystery
As we abide in You

Verses–
Dear children of this fallen sod
The Gard’ner knows our need
In grafting us to Christ the Vine
We gain eternity (Refrain)

For we are branches of the Vine
Joined cross both time and place
No fruit is grown apart from Christ
For what is grown needs grace (Refrain)

You prune our lives with utmost care
So we might bear more fruit
The fruit of justice, peace, and love
Lived out in all we do (Refrain)

Eternal Vine, most Holy Seed
Sewn as Your willing Son
So intertwine Your family vine
That we might live as one (Refrain)

*************
You are the Source © May 19, 2000, Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form. Lisa is especially interested in collaborating with someone to set this text to original music.

Our Peace (Ephesians 2)

people crossEphesians 2:13-18
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Jesus
You are our peace

You proclaim it
You create it
You bring us near

Without you there is
No safety
No belonging
No nurturing
No identity rooted beyond this dust

Without you we are
Anchorless
Strangers, Aliens
Outsiders, Outcasts, Orphaned

Our need is so deep, so desperate
So beyond us
It took flesh, your flesh to make peace
Your torture puts hostility to death
Your broken body breaks down every dividing wall
Your blood makes us blood

What wondrous truth
What dazzling grace

Bring us near again, Jesus
Help us remember and re-member
Make us one in your generous, fierce love

*****************
This prayer was born from the Ephesians Reading Challenge. Click Here for more information on the challenge to read and reflect on the entire book of Ephesians 3 times in 3 weeks. 

The Ephesians Reading Challenge accompanied a sermon series entitled Sit Walk Stand which was inspired by Watchman Nee‘s book Sit Walk Stand, a study of Ephesians. You will find recordings and notes from this series on the blog as well.

Our Peace © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Prayers Remembering Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day

memorial day military graveIntroduction
READER ONE:
We gather this Memorial Weekend with persons all over our nation to remember those who make great sacrifices in service to their country and to pray for God’s promised peace.

READER TWO:
The 3rd Saturday of May is Armed Forces Day. It is set aside to honor men and women who currently serve in the United States Military. While we remember them throughout the year, we will especially remember them today.

READER ONE:
The last Monday in May is Memorial Day. It is set aside to honor military service members who died while serving in the military. It was first called Decoration Day because graves were decorated with flowers and flags. It was changed to Memorial Day to put the emphasis on the fallen, not the graves. We will also remember them today.

READER TWO:
November 11th is Veterans Day. It is set aside to honor all who served in the military, living or dead. We will set aside time in November to honor them, thank them, and remember them.

Memorial Prayer
READER ONE:
Jesus, we hear your words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NRSV)

READER TWO:
Please turn to the list in your program as we honor those who are currently serving as active duty military or as reservists.

Read the list

If you know of anyone else currently serving in the Armed Forces, please speak their names now that we may honor and bless them as well.

Pause as persons respond

PASTOR:
Almighty God, we are grateful for those who are willing to sacrifice and to serve. Strengthen the men and women mentioned here today and all who risk their lives to protect others. Help all military personnel to serve with honor, wisdom, and compassion. Guard them against hard-heartedness, despair, and evil. Strengthen and bless their families, especially when they are separated one from another. Surround them with your protection, your grace, and your peace.

A person enters with a large, lit, white candle. If possible, consider using a service member in uniform.

PASTOR:
Let us pause for a moment of silence as we remember and honor those who died while serving their country in the armed forces.

Moment of Silence

PASTOR:
Merciful God, we recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice, putting the welfare of others ahead of their own safety. We are grateful and humbled by their actions. Strengthen and comfort their friends and family members as they remember and grieve. Amen

READER ONE: Micah 4:1-4 NRSV
Hear these words of promise and hope from the prophet Micah.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

ALL:
God of Love, it is your will for the nations to seek you and to know you.
It is your will for us live together in peace, provision, and equity.
Forgive us our warring ways.
End the selfishness and corruption.
End the mistrust and misinformation.
End the violence.
Bring wholeness and hope to every system, relationship, and person broken by war.
Show us where we can join you in your great work of peace.
Give us the courage to act and your wisdom to know what to do.
We ask this in the strong name of Jesus
The Savior of the World,
The Lord of All,
The Prince of Peace…

Conclude singing Let There Be Peace on Earth

**********
Prayers Remembering Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day
© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon based on Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss (1 Peter 1)

sermon series dr seuss 1110 x 624

Sermon Series: The Gospel of Dr. Seuss
Message 1 of 6: Horton Hatches the Egg

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-7
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/20/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Why are Dr. Seuss books classics?

  • Rhythm and Rhyme
  • Inventive Illustrations
  • Universal Themes
  • Modern Parables- Stories with a deeper meaning. Those deeper meanings are often Biblical truths.

horton hatches the egg bookReading of Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss

Horton makes a courageous commitment. He remains faithful to that commitment even when doing so leads to

  • Frustration
  • Inconvenience
  • Pain
  • Sickness
  • Ridicule
  • Sacrifice
  • Threat of death
  • Sold into slavery

What breaks my heart is the return of Lazy Mayzie and her reclaiming the egg she abandoned. The story has a happy ending (Elephant Bird!) Even so, Horton would have remained true even without reward. He’s courageously committed.

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!”

Does anyone do this anymore? Have you ever made a Horton level commitment? What prevents you?

  • What if I commit to the wrong thing?
  • What if I miss out on something better? I’ll be trapped!
  • I’ve got plenty of time to make a commitment later
  • What if the commitment impacts the way I want to live my life like it did Horton?
  • As Lazy Mayzie says, “It’s work, how I hate it, I’d much rather play!”

Commitment is easy to come by when it is superficial, doesn’t cost us anything, temporary, or new. (How are those New Year’s resolutions going?) Commitment takes work. The work is to keep at it- day after day, year after year after year.

Eugene Peterson wrote a book entitled A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It’s hard but it’s worth it.

Keys to Making a Horton Level Commitment. (Adapted from 5 Keys to Commitment by Ryan Dunn)

1) Define “The Why”, the deep reason for the commitment. I am committed to my sobriety because… I am committed to my marriage because… I am committed to starting this business because… I am a committed follower of Jesus Christ because…

2) Remember “The Why.” Keep it in front of you, especially when the commitment becomes hard work and sacrifice.

3) Live the commitment moment to moment. I’m going to eat healthy for the rest of my life. No! I’m going to make the best next faithful choice. Little choices add up to a big and lasting commitment.

4) Expect some failure. It will happen. Choose to fail forward: practice forgiveness, learn from the failure, keep showing up.

5) Don’t go it alone. We need the gift of each other and we need God.

Who can you think of who’s made a Horton level commitment? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We think of the super saints. Ordinary people can make a Horton level commitment as well.

Have you made a Horton level commitment to Jesus?    

When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Him, we become nothing more than fans.- Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan

Reading of 1 Peter 1:3-7. “The Why” of making a Horton level commitment to Jesus.

  • His great mercy
  • New birth
  • A living hope
  • Jesus already made a Horton level commitment to us in his coming, homelessness, ridicule, torture, death, and resurrection
  • an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. No situation or evil can touch it.
  • Salvation and Heaven
  • God’s protection

This is why we rejoice and keep to a courageous commitment in the midst of suffering and trials for the sake of Christ.

Have you made a Horton level commitment to Jesus? You can. Anyone can.   

  • Not a nominal Christian- in name only
  • Not a CEO (Christmas Easter only)
  • Not a commitment of convenience
  • Not a fair-weather Christian
  • Not a fan

WORSHIP RESOURCES
For Courage to do Justice by Alan Paton
O Lord,
open my eyes that I may see the needs of others;
open my ears that I may hear their cries;
open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.
Amen.

***********
Horton Hatches The Egg Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording- Persecuted People (Acts 5.12-42)

Sermon Series Website What is Church

Sermon Series: What is Church?
Message 6 of 6: Persecuted People
Scriptures: Acts 5:12-42
This message was offered Sunday, 5/27/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Why do we come to Jesus? What are we looking for?

  • Forgiveness
  • Comfort
  • Healing
  • Hope
  • Life, everlasting life
  • Love
  • Meaning, purpose, to be part of something greater than ourselves

The same was true for the earliest followers of Jesus

Acts 5:12-16
This is what it looks like when the people of God are on Fire, Full of the Holy Spirit, faith-full in word and deed

  • V 12 Many signs and wonders- People are experiencing transformation, healing, deliverance on such a scale it must be God. The city was different because of the love and good works of the faith-full.
  • V 12 All together-  working together as Body of Christ
  • V 13 Held in high esteem- known in the community, reputation for love and good works both in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns
  • V 14 More than ever believers were added to the Lord. The first followers were making disciples of Jesus Christ. They were fulfilling the great commission. (Matthew 28:16-20)

When you come to Jesus are you looking for adventure? Are you reading to join Jesus in healing the sick, bringing good news to the poor, releasing the captives, battling evil, and changing the world?

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Lord’s prayer also includes “Deliver us from evil.” There is a cost to fully following Jesus. When you battle evil, it’s going to fight back.   

Sermon Subpage Header roman prison

A story of the brave Christians in Cuba

Verse 13 says, “None of the rest dared to join them.” Even though the Christians were doing great things by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even though they were respected by the people, it was still dangerous to publically associate with the Christians.

17 Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, 18 arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.

There’s an old question to check your commitment to Jesus. “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” There was no doubt Peter and the Apostles were followers- preaching, teaching, healing, caring for the poor. They were loud and proud. They were battling evil and evil is going to make them pay, first by imprisonment.

God provided for their escape. Did they run, no! Even though they were just arrested, they kept preaching and teaching publically.

Reading Acts 5:19- 28
Jewish leadership is jealous of so many people coming to faith and the Christian’s high regard of the people. The Jewish leadership is scared. They fear the crowd will believe Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, that they killed him, and the crowd will now stone them for it.

In verse 28, the apostles are accused of filling Jerusalem with their teaching. What would it be like if Sarasota were filled with the teaching of Jesus? Siesta Key?

What kind of effort would that take? Every single one of us equipped to share the gospel, testify, pray with people, invite people. Every single one of us, and all the other Christians in town wanting to do it, brave, courageous. Every single one saying, “This is the most important thing I do because this has eternal consequences.”

Reading Acts 5:29-39
They take a stand for Jesus then they start sharing the Gospel with the Jewish leadership! The leaders’ main mission is to protect the word of God, the temple, the worship of God from false Messiahs. Gamaliel reminds them that if Jesus is the Messiah, what the apostles are doing cannot be stopped. You could actually be fighting against God. If not, it will fail and fade.

Here we are over 2000 years later still following Jesus. The Gospel did not fail or fade. This gives us the courage to share it. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

39b They were convinced by him, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. 42 And every day in the temple and at home, they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.

Why do we come to Jesus? What are we looking for?

  • Come to Jesus for the adventure
  • Come to Jesus. Take up your cross. Suit up, warrior. Get in the game.
  • Come to Jesus. Battle evil. Change the world.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s risky. There is a cost, but it’s of God. If it’s of God- nothing will be able to stop it.

Renewing our Commitment to Christ, His Mission, and Church
1. Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?

2. Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

3. Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

4. According to the grace given you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world? 

*****************
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Prayers Remembering Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day

memorial day military graveIntroduction
READER ONE:
We gather this Memorial Weekend with persons all over our nation to remember those who make great sacrifices in service to their country and to pray for God’s promised peace.

READER TWO:
The 3rd Saturday of May is Armed Forces Day. It is set aside to honor men and women who currently serve in the United States Military. While we remember them throughout the year, we will especially remember them today.

READER ONE:
The last Monday in May is Memorial Day. It is set aside to honor military service members who died while serving in the military. It was first called Decoration Day because graves were decorated with flowers and flags. It was changed to Memorial Day to put the emphasis on the fallen, not the graves. We will also remember them today.

READER TWO:
November 11th is Veterans Day. It is set aside to honor all who served in the military, living or dead. We will set aside time in November to honor them, thank them, and remember them.

Memorial Prayer
READER ONE:
Jesus, we hear your words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 NRSV)

READER TWO:
Please turn to the list in your program as we honor those who are currently serving as active duty military or as reservists.

Read the list

If you know of anyone else currently serving in the Armed Forces, please speak their names now that we may honor and bless them as well.

Pause as persons respond

PASTOR:
Almighty God, we are grateful for those who are willing to sacrifice and to serve. Strengthen the men and women mentioned here today and all who risk their lives to protect others. Help all military personnel to serve with honor, wisdom, and compassion. Guard them against hard-heartedness, despair, and evil. Strengthen and bless their families, especially when they are separated one from another. Surround them with your protection, your grace, and your peace.

A person enters with a large, lit, white candle. If possible, consider using a service member in uniform.

PASTOR:
Let us pause for a moment of silence as we remember and honor those who died while serving their country in the armed forces.

Moment of Silence

PASTOR:
Merciful God, we recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice, putting the welfare of others ahead of their own safety. We are grateful and humbled by their actions. Strengthen and comfort their friends and family members as they remember and grieve. Amen

READER ONE: Micah 4:1-4 NRSV
Hear these words of promise and hope from the prophet Micah.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

ALL:
God of Love, it is your will for the nations to seek you and to know you.
It is your will for us live together in peace, provision, and equity.
Forgive us our warring ways.
End the selfishness and corruption.
End the mistrust and misinformation.
End the violence.
Bring wholeness and hope to every system, relationship, and person broken by war.
Show us where we can join you in your great work of peace.
Give us the courage to act and your wisdom to know what to do.
We ask this in the strong name of Jesus
The Savior of the World,
The Lord of All,
The Prince of Peace…

Conclude singing Let There Be Peace on Earth

**********
Prayers Remembering Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day
© 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.